What is the Difference Between a will and a Living will?

Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

Sometimes people confuse a will with a living will; this may be due to the similarities of the names as well as the fact that the two documents have a similar purpose. Both of these documents spell out what the person who creates them wishes and are used to ensure his wishes are honored when he can no longer speak for himself. A will and a living will are more different than they are alike, however. A will is used to specify how a person’s assets should be divided after his death as well as whom will have the responsibility of taking care of his dependents. A living will, on the other hand, is used to specify the treatments a person wants doctors to provide to prolong his life in the event he can no longer speak for himself.


The main difference between a will and a living will is the time period it is intended to govern. A will is intended to provide instructions for the division of a person’s assets and the care of his dependents once the will creator has died. It is not subject to anyone else’s decision-making process. A living will, on the other hand, is made to govern a time period in which a person is incapacitated because of a health condition or injury. It allows him to specify what treatments, if any, he wants doctors to use to prolong his life and only becomes effective once a person’s doctor determines that he has no chance of recovering and is terminal.

One easy way to remember the difference between a will and a living will is to keep in mind the types of things these documents decide. For example, a will may indicate who will receive a person’s prized collection of artwork after his death. It may also indicate who will become guardian of a person’s children. Sometimes it may even list a person to care for the deceased person’s pet and provide information regarding its monetary support. A living will, however, does not cover property or dependents at all; it focuses entirely on whether or not its creator wants doctors to use methods and medical equipment to keep him alive once it has been determined that he will not recover.

Despite the fact that a will and a living will are different, they do have some similarities. They are both legal documents that spell out a person’s wishes. To ensure that a will and living will are adhered to when the time comes, a person may consult a lawyer to get advice on drafting it in keeping with his jurisdiction’s laws.



Discuss this Article

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?